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Issue 341 – January 1, 2013



Tell the young men you serve that they’re SCOUTS and THIS IS THEIR TROOP. Tell them nobody runs their troop but THEM. Show them by your actions what it means to believe in something greater than themselves and stand up for this. Teach them by your example honor and integrity. Support and guide their willingness—indeed, their eagerness—to take charge of their lives, and lead their patrols. Point the way toward the mountaintop, and keep the path clear for them. Now, you have yourself a TROOP. (Thanks, Bro. Tommy Chavies, WM)


The new “Scouts for Afghan Scouts” CSP is ready, thanks to Cpt. John Green! They’re $10.50 each (the 50¢ pays for shipping). All proceeds go directly to the Afghanistan effort being carried out this very minute by American military and military employee volunteers. Check this out at

Afghan Scouts

This is a limited edition! To acquire one or more of these, you can contact John directly at They’re great for your collection, and wonderful as gifts!

On a personal note, the good news about John is that following this, his third tour in the Middle East, John will be stateside once again by mid-January, and reunited with his family!

(For more about John, go to my August 1, 2012 column #323)
Hello Andy!

I really enjoy your columns. Many times I learn something new, and other times, I confirm that we’re getting Scouting right. Maybe I can help out in a small way…

In addition to the new “College Scouter Reserve” (a district position—Code 92—as you’ve pointed out), the BSA now has a further “reserve” designation” “Unit College Scouter Reserve” (a unit position—Code 92U). More information can be found here:

(Marc Fischer, CM/SM, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

Thanks! And thanks to the many fine Scouters who have written to me about this latest addition to registration options!
Dear Andy,

Your columns have served us well over the years and helped us resolve many issues. Once again we need your advice. This is about the BSA Tour and Activity Plan. When we fill out this form for a weekend campout, it’s rejected at our council service center because we don’t check the box stating that “The group will have in possession an Annual Health and Medical Record for every participant.” First of all, the campouts are all less than 72 hours. Furthermore, we either have Webelos Scouts or boys who are thinking about joining the troop on some of these campouts, as our guests. We’ve brought this issue to our District Executive, but the response remains consistent. Can you shed some light on this topic, for us? (Pat Lewis, Patriots Path Council, NJ)

Yes, the BSA Tour and Activity Plan does call for the unit to have in possession of the leaders an Annual Health and Medical Record for every participant in any away event. Whether the event is more or less than 72 hours isn’t what’s at issue here. Protection of the participants is the issue. For events lasting up to (but not exceeding) 72 hours, only Parts A and B are required (Part C, which is completed by a licensed medical professional, is required when the event extends beyond 72 hours). The good news is that both A and B don’t require a visit to a physician (or the cost that might be entailed); Parts A and B can be completed by youth participants’ parents or guardians, or by adults for themselves. Part A is, of course, general information and health history, including medications prescribed; Part B is an informed consent and release agreement. Neither of these is onerous, but both are vital in the event of an incident or accident. No conscientious unit leaders would want to go anywhere without these!

As for guests of the unit (e.g., Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts and other youth, and/or their parents), these forms can be given to them in advance so that they can be properly filled out and signed, and given to the event leader on or before the day of the outing.

Your District Executive has done exactly the right thing by not providing any “wiggle room” on this. Thank him or her, and get those forms filled out and submitted for every youth in the unit and all adults who will be coming on any outings. Happily, this isn’t about “paperwork”—it’s all about safety and protection.
Dear Andy,

I’ve recently been honored with the NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, and I have a question about when it’s appropriate to wear it. In particular, I sit on the court of numerous Eagle Scout Courts of Honor each year, and thus am expected to wear my Eagle medal with either my uniform or suit. I know that the Distinguished Eagle Award medal and neck ribbon supersedes the Eagle medal, and thus replaces it in formal situations. Is that also true for the NOESA? Am I expected to wear both it and the Eagle medal, wear it instead of the Eagle medal, or not at all and just wear the Eagle medal? (Michael Malone, ASM, Author: “Four Percent”)

Congratulations! First, about wearing the Eagle medal: If you’re attending a court of honor in uniform, while the square knot signifying Eagle rank is typically sufficient, you’re entitled to wear the medal itself, at your discretion. If you’re wearing a suit or sport jacket, wearing the medal pinned below the top seam of the left breast pocket is appropriate. It is not necessary to wear the medal to an Eagle board of review, whether or not in uniform.

If you’re in uniform at a significant formal Scouting event, the square knot will speak for itself and it’s completely appropriate to wear the NOESA ribbon-and-medal, because this communicates that you’re both an Eagle Scout and an outstanding one, at that! The same applies to formal Scouting events (particularly district and council recognition events) when you’re wearing a suit or sports jacket: The Eagle medal can remain at home while you wear the NOESA (it’s “doing double-duty”).

That said, let’s recognize one more aspect: Nothing in Scouting “supersedes” being an Eagle Scout.

Hi Andy,

I recently took on responsibility as advancement coordinator. Subsequent to this, on reviewing past records to bring myself up to speed, I noticed that one of the Scouts in our troop may have received his First Class rank before meeting the “10 Activities” requirement. He’s now Star, and close to Life rank. I’m wondering if this glitch will be a problem for him, moving forward. I know that merit badges, once approved by a registered Merit Badge Counselor, can never be withdrawn. Does the same hold true for ranks? I certainly don’t want this Scout to continue moving towards Eagle without full knowledge of what might happen. (Name & Council Withheld)

That was two ranks, two Scoutmaster conferences, and two boards of review ago. At this point, I’d say it’s water under the bridge. If he’s received the rank, and it’s been duly recorded by the troop and on an advancement report submitted to the council service center at that time, end of story. Yes, the Eagle Scout rank application asks for the date of his First Class board of review, and that’s all it asks for, in this regard. Besides, if the error did indeed occur, it’s most likely that the adult volunteers of the troop bear the onus of that error, and we don’t even “punish” any Scout for an error on the part of any adult(s). So, let’s let this sleep where it lays and help him attain Eagle.
Dear Andy,

Our troop committee seems to think one of its duties is to set up merit badge classes for the Scouts. So they’ve established that pattern that “regular” troop meetings are held during a month’s first and third weeks, and troop merit badge classes on the second and fourth. Their focus is on Eagle-required merit badges, with a few other options tossed in occasionally. The troop has a sizeable number of registered “in-house” Merit Badge Counselors, which pool is drawn from. In addition, the committee reaches into the district MBC data base as necessary.

I don’t feel that the committee should be scheduling these classes, because this undercuts a Scout acquiring the self-reliance that’s one of the goals of the Merit Badge Program in particular. My thinking is that, if a Scout wants to earn a merit badge he can get the pamphlet, complete the requirements, contact and make an appointment with a Merit Badge Counselor, at which time he can demonstrate his proficiency and/or knowledge, and earn the badge. What do you think? (Name & Council Withheld)

As you suspect, the committee, however well-meaning they may be, has it all wrong. Get a classic “troop meeting plan” (they’re available online) and show it to them. What they’ll immediately notice is that none of the seven parts of the plan says “merit badge class.” Then point out that you all are expected by the BSA to deliver the Boy Scout program as written, without “invention.” (“Present, not invent”!)

By including merit badges in troop meetings, fully 50 percent of the purpose of the merit badge program—the part that involves the Scout’s own initiative, just as you stated—has been undermined and defeated.

The Scoutmaster has responsibility for the correct delivery of the Boy Scout program. Therefore, it’s up to the Scoutmaster to say “No” to this and stick by his guns. The committee’s responsibility is to support the program the Scouts plan for themselves; it’s not to set “troop policy” or invent “troop program.”

But there’s one more thing we need to talk about, and that’s the order of events when merit badges are earned. As you described it, the Scout (a) gets the pamphlet for a merit badge he’s interested in, (b) completes the requirements (on his own, you’re suggesting), and then (c) contacts a registered Merit Badge Counselor. Per this thinking, (b) and (c) are in the wrong order. After selecting the merit badge and acquiring a current pamphlet, the next step is to contact and meet with the Merit Badge Counselor. Only after this does the Scout begin the work (or the remainder of the work if, for instance, he’s already camped a number of nights for the Camping merit badge he’s now going to complete) under the guidance of his Counselor. Otherwise, Counselors become nothing more than merit badge “examiners,” and that’s not the intent of the program, either. The second “big idea” of this program is to link a boy with a knowledgeable adult who can impart insights and wisdom… that’s what “counseling” is all about!

Dear Andy,

We’ve spoken before about issues we were having with our Venturing crew, and you gave sound advice that seemed to be helping… for a while. But we now only have only two active youth members (I’m one of these) and we’re losing our Crew Advisor. We tried talking to people, invited current Boy Scouts to go on outings with us, and even set up a crew website to get the word out, but we’ve still not been able to grow our membership beyond the original five; instead, we’ve shrunk. What do you think we should do? I’m personally really invested in this crew and want to see it succeed. (Becky Everly, Crew President, Sagamore Council, IN)

Hmmm… In light of what’s happened, I’d say you need to have a serious conversation with both your sponsor and the parents of the two Venturers still involved, being sure to include your council’s District Executive as well. It’s decision time. Should you fold? Or are you going to recruit some parents to fill the needed slots and get no less than three more members quickly, so you can at least recharter? If the decision is to continue, then here are some thoughts…

Find out why the three you had dropped away. Did they all move too far away to continue actively, or was it for some other reason (e.g., internal disagreements, doing stuff that others weren’t interested in, not doing enough, doing “boring” stuff…what?). You need “exit interviews here,” with the object being to listen without comment and take notes.

Start doing stuff your personal friends from school would like to do (even if they’re not your personal favorite things) and invite your friends along (not to “join” instantly—just to come along and have some fun!).

Get some visibility for yourselves that’s in a positive light. Go help out at a food bank or shelter, get some photos taken, and get them published in your local and school newspapers.

Get your D.E. to connect you with a couple of local Scout troops that have Scouts your age or older, and then ask the D.E. to help you open communications with them, so you can invite some of the older Scouts to participate on some event or outing with you.

Link up with any nearby crews and ask if you can come along (this is a way to recharge your own batteries!).

Get some additional ideas from your D.E.!

As you proceed, absolutely avoid a “poor us” mentality! Never ask someone to join up “because if you don’t we’re gonna hafta close our doors.” Never promote yourselves as “Save Crew XXX”!

Dear Andy,

First of all, thank you for a great site. I stumbled across your columns today while doing a little Internet searching about the Cub Scout Arrow of Light Award. I earned my Arrow of Light in 1992 and my Eagle in 1998. I have a first-grade son who’s a Tiger Cub this year, and I’ve joined the Pack Committee. In putting together my adult uniform, I started to wonder why the BSA has never had an Arrow of Light medal. It seems to me that it is an award that certainly deserves the recognition of a medal, in addition to the adult square knot and youth patch, for wearing at formal events. I’m curious if you have any explanation or background on this. (Scott Rosemann, MC, Heart of America Council, MO)

No Cub Scout (started in 1930) rank or Boy Scout (started in 1910) rank other than Eagle has ever had a medal. As you’ve discovered, there’s a “square knot” for Arrow of Light that, as an adult Scouter, you’re entitled to wear right alongside your Eagle “square knot.” As for wearing your Eagle (or other youth-earned) medal on your adult uniform—even for “formal events”—this is never to extremely rarely ever done. Receive the Silver Beaver, adult religious recognition, or community organization (Rotary, Freemasons, etc.) medal and certainly wear it with your uniform or even with “civvies” at a formal affair. But you’d likely only wear the Eagle medal itself if you’re attending a “formal event” with a sports or suit jacket.

Oh, one more thing perhaps worth noting: In a pack, Cubmasters and Den Leaders are expected to wear full and correct uniforms, but committee members get a “bye” on this. For MCs and CCs, uniforms are optional.

I hope this helps. Thanks for finding me and for becoming a reader!
Hi Andy,

Love reading your stuff. Always good solid advice. However, I suggest you reconsider the wording of your Rule No. 35. I don’t think that saying someone should be “…taken out back and shot.” is really something you should “recommend,” even though you might mean it tongue in cheek. How does that fit with the mission and aims of the Scouting movement? You wouldn’t tell your Scouts that if they don’t like something the Senior Patrol Leader did they “should take him out back and beat him up.” I’m sure you can find wording to convey your meaning without suggesting that shooting someone is appropriate punishment for some transgression. (Wayne Huddleston, Mid-America Council & National Advancement Committee Member)

First, thanks for determining that the meaning is “tongue-in-cheek,” as you put it. Now sit back… Those words were borrowed from no less than Baden-Powell himself. (B-P’s credited in that column, BTW.)

Dear Andy,

Does the requirement of six months in a position of responsibility while a Life Scout have to be served at one time, or can it be two separate terms? (Name & Council Withheld)

So long as the total tenure-in-position(s) adds up to six months, no sweat—the requirement’s been fulfilled. Further, this can be in more than one position, and the times doesn’t have to be continuous or back-to-back (meaning: there can be a break in between them), just so long as the positions are all qualifying and together add up to six months.
Dear Andy,

I’m a District Commissioner and we’re in the middle of crunch-time for rechartering. I’ve recently learned that a committee member in one of our district’s units is taking online youth protection for other volunteers in the unit, in their names (he has their membership numbers to do this—they’re on the rechartering documents), so that their registrations don’t get dropped. Is there a policy or guideline in place for this kind of indiscretion? (Name & Council Withheld)

What would your action be if you found an employee actively falsifying the background records of other employees, with their permission and collusion? ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

I’m a new Order of the Arrow Chapter Advisor. I’ve noticed that our ceremonies don’t include the extinguishing of candles at the end of our ceremonial meetings—in fact, this part of the ceremony has been corrupted for years. I’m concerned that the meaning is lost on the new Ordeal and Brotherhood members going through the ceremony, and that the symbolism of the Scout Oath and Law represented by the candles is being lost. First, am I correct that this part of the ceremony is still done with candles? If so, should I be concerned that this seems to be going away in my lodge? (Name & Council Withheld)

As an OA Chapter Advisor, you have local resources, including other Chapter Advisors, the Lodge Advisor, and the BSA professional who acts as staff advisor (usually the Scout Executive, who is known as “Chief of the Fire”). My best recommendation is to bring your concern to your next advisors meeting and/or have a chat with the Chief of the Fire.
Dear Andy,

I read with interest one of your reader’s difficulty with access problems at local public schools (and school boards) in his recruiting efforts for the Scouting program. I’ve experienced this, too, but a gentle reminder to the school officials about the Congressional Act of several years ago to “Save Our Scouts” grants permission to the Scouting organization to have access to public schools. Once I’ve gently pointed this out, these same schools and officials have all responded graciously and changed their position in every case. More, many have followed their position reversal with sincere admiration for the work that Scouting does in their community! (Jim Costello, CM, Great Sauk Trail Council, MI)

What a wonderfully diplomatic way to handle this! Thanks!

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 341 – 1/1/2013 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2013]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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